Updated 3 hours and 46 minutes ago

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – The new Afghan Taliban leadership set up a ministry for the “propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice” in the building that once housed the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, escorting staff members from the World Bank as part of the forced movement. movement.

It was the latest disturbing sign that the Taliban is restricting women’s rights as they take over government, just a month after invading the capital Kabul. During their previous rule over Afghanistan in the 1990s, the Taliban denied girls and women the right to education and excluded them from public life.

Meanwhile, three explosions targeted Taliban vehicles on Saturday in the eastern provincial capital of Jalalabad, killing three and injuring 20, witnesses said. There has been no immediate claim of responsibility, but militants from the region-based Islamic State group are enemies of the Taliban.

The Taliban face major economic and security challenges as they attempt to rule, and a growing challenge from IS militants would further strain their resources.

In Kabul, a new sign was installed outside the Ministry of Women’s Affairs announcing that it was now the “Ministry of Preaching and Guidance and the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of vice ”.

Staff from the World Bank’s $ 100 million women’s economic empowerment and rural development program, which was managed by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, were escorted from the scene, said Sharif Akhtar, a program member. , who was among those returned.

Mabouba Suraj, who heads the Afghan Women’s Network, said she was stunned by the wave of orders issued by the Taliban-led government restricting women and girls.

The Taliban-led education ministry on Friday asked boys in grades 6 to 12 to return to school, starting Saturday, with their male teachers. There was no mention of girls in those classes returning to school. Earlier, the Taliban Minister of Higher Education had said that girls would have equal access to education, albeit in contexts of gender segregation.

“It’s getting really, really awkward. … Is this the stage where the girls are going to be forgotten? Suraj said, “I know they don’t believe the explanations, but the explanations are very important.”

Suraj has speculated that the conflicting statements may reflect the divisions within the Taliban as they seek to consolidate their power, the more pragmatic within the movement losing to the extremists among them, at least for now.

Statements by Taliban leaders often reflect a willingness to engage with the world, to talk about open public spaces for women and girls, and to protect Afghan minorities. But the orders to his ranks on the ground are contradictory. Instead of what had been promised, restrictions, especially on women, were implemented.

Suraj, an Afghan-American who returned to Afghanistan in 2003 to promote women’s rights and education, said many of her fellow activists had left the country.

She said she stayed with the aim of engaging with the Taliban and finding common ground, but so far she has not been able to bring the leaders of the pure Islamic group and hard to meet activists who have remained in the country, to talk with women about the way forward.

“We have to talk. We have to find common ground,” she said.

UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay on Saturday added her voice to growing concern over the Taliban’s limitations on girls after only boys were asked to return to school.

“If this ban were maintained, it would constitute a significant violation of the fundamental right to education of girls and women,” Azoulay said in a statement upon arriving in New York for the opening of the United Nations General Assembly. .

A former adviser to the Women’s Ministry under the previous Afghan government sent a video message to The Associated Press from her home in Kabul, criticizing the Taliban’s decision to shut down the ministry.

It is “the right of women to work, learn and participate in politics nationally and internationally,” said Sara Seerat. it shows that they do not intend in the future to give women their rights or a chance to serve in government and participate in other affairs. “

Earlier this month, the Taliban announced an all-male cabinet, but said it was a tentative setup, offering some hope that a future government would be more inclusive like many of its leaders. had promised.

Also on Saturday, an international flight from the Pakistani national carrier left Kabul airport with 322 passengers on board and an Iranian flight from Mahan Air left with 187 passengers on board, an airport official said.

The official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the two international flights took off in the morning. The identity and nationality of those on board were not immediately known.

The flights were the last to leave Kabul last week as technical teams from Qatar and Turkey worked to bring the airport up to standard for international commercial aircraft.

A Qatar Airways flight on Friday brought more Americans out of Afghanistan, the third such airlift by the Middle East carrier since the Taliban takeover and the frenzied withdrawal of US troops from the country this month. latest. The State Department said on Saturday that there were 28 U.S. citizens and seven permanent residents aboard the flight from Kabul, and thanked Qatari officials for their help.

Also on Friday evening, a flight from Kam Air, Afghanistan’s largest private carrier, took off from Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of northern Balkh province, with 350 passengers on board, according to two employees on site.

The flight was headed for Dubai, said the two, who requested anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media. They said the plane was carrying foreigners, but it was not clear if and how many Americans were on board.


Associated Press editors Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations, Tameem Akhgar in Istanbul, and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

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